Our Stolen Futurea book by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers


  In 1997 the Swedish Chemicals Policy Committee (established by the Swedish Government in May 1996) published a revolutionary document entitled Towards a Sustainable Chemicals Policy.  

In their official report to the Government, the Committee embraced the fullest implementation of the precautionary principle yet proposed in the management of chemicals. Now in late 2000, Prime Minister Göran Persson is preparing to present early in 2001 a version of the Committee's recommendations to the Swedish parliament, which is widely expected to approve the new chemical policy.

The proposed policies will reverse the burden of proof for persistent, bioaccumulative compounds... new ones as well as those that have been in commerce already. Specifically, if a compound is shown to be persistent and bioaccumulative, its use will be banned unless it can be shown that the chemical is safe. Current practice allows use unless the chemical can be shown to cause harm.

Key points in the new policies:

"Hazardous man-made substances should not be accumulated in the environment. Preventing this is the only reliable way of avoiding adverse health and environmental effects; such action is consistent with the precautionary principle, according to which the absence of conclusive scientific evidence must not, where there is a risk of serious damage, be used as an excuse for postponing cost-effective measures."

New products introduced into the market are largely:

  • free from man-made organic substances that are persistent and liable to bioaccumulate, and from substances that give rise to such substances and
  • free from mad-mande substances that are carcinogenic, mutagenic and endocrine disruptive-- including those which have adverse effects on the reproductive system.
  • New products introduced on the market are largely free from mercury, cadmium, lead and their compounds.
  • Metals are used in such a way that they are not released into the environment to a degree that causes harm to the environment or human health.
  • Man-made organic substances that are persistent and bioaccumulative occur in production processes only if the producer can show that health and ethe environment will not be harmed.
  • The use of brominated flame retardants must be restricted. PBB and PBDE will be phased out.
  • The remaining use of short-chain highly chlorinated paraffins will be phased out by 2000. All use of chlorinated paraffins as plasticizers or flame retardants in PVC products must cease by 2000.
  • The use of nonyl phenol ethoxylates is estimated to have dropped in Sweden by 70-80 percent since 1990. The remaining use of NFEs, which cause direct emissions, will be phased out by 2000.
  • All use of phthalates and other plasticizers with harmful or potentially harmful health or environmental effects should be phased out on a voluntary basis.
  • Plasticizers in toys for children under the age of three will be banned."


An overview of the proposals can be found in English on the Swedish Government's website on sustainable development, or can be downloaded in a .pdf file.

Science, 1 December 2000
Grist Magazine, 15 December 2000.






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